Police raided the home this morning of suspects accused of stealing $15,000 worth of camera equipment from a world-renowned war photojournalist on Detroit’s east side Wednesday afternoon.
The camera gear, however, wasn’t found. Police did find drugs and guns and took the suspects into custody.
The National Press Photographers Association, which is helping Christopher Morris find his gear, said Morris was in Flint reshooting two days’ worth of photos because his camera cards also were stolen.
Neighbors said police with automatic weapons swarmed the house between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.
“We activated our Criminal Investigation Bureau to work alongside our Special Response Team to serve several warrants, all in an attempt to locate the stolen equipment,” Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Woody told me. “These units worked tirelessly through the night.”
Morris has gained international fame with his coverage of Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Chechnya and Yugoslavia.
Morris, who was in Detroit working on a story for a national publication, left his camera equipment in his locked car at McDonald’s at Conner and Mack while he walked across the street to frame a shot. Then he heard broken glass and saw thieves grabbing his equipment. He was robbed a second time when someone offered to retrieve the equipment for $200. The person never returned with the cash.
Morris tracked down the location of his iPhone, which also was stolen, using a tracking app. The location was 4303 Algonquin, just northwest of the robbery. It was the focus of the raid.
Morris complained on Facebook that police weren’t helping quickly enough.
“The police were with me.. we told them where the house was.. they said they needed search warrant… They said detectives would contact me and left,” Morris said.
At first, Morris said police needed more evidence than the location of a stolen phone to get a warrant. But he and others kept the pressure on police until this morning’s raid. Media attorneys also got involved.
But police said they acted promptly and are taking the issue very seriously.
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Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s spokesman Bill Nowling posted on Facebook that police did everything right.
“DPD responded in a timely manner,” he wrote. Robbery happened late afternoon or early evening. Police executed two search warrants overnight as a result of this robbery report. Several arrests were made at one location, a drug house, on unrelated charges. Don’t know if they are suspects in the photog robbery at this time. DPD is investigating why the officers did not investigate at the time whether the stolen equipment was at the location Mr. Morris indicated with his iPhone tracker. SOP (Standard operating procedure) would have been to knock on the door and investigate. No warrant would be necessary for that, but again, this is under investigation. The robbery occurred at the corner of Mack and Connor on the city’s east side. I do know that the DPD did take this seriously and are aggressively working the case.”
We staked out the house for nearly two hours today before an accumulating group of men told us to leave. But before we left, a woman approached our car.
“I can get that for you,” she said of the photo equipment, rubbing her fingers together to indicate she wanted money.
“How much?” I asked.
“Let’s talk,” she said, wanting to get into my car.
But by then, several men were quickly approaching the car, forcing us to leave.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.
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